Magazine article American Forests

Escape to Alaska: A Photographic Journey through the Backcountry of Alaska with Our Artist-in-Residence

Magazine article American Forests

Escape to Alaska: A Photographic Journey through the Backcountry of Alaska with Our Artist-in-Residence

Article excerpt

THIS PAST SUMMER, friends and members of American Forests joined us for an exclusive adventure in Denali National Park. We were lucky enough for photographer Chuck Fazio, our Artist-in-Residence, to tag along! Fazio also explored several other Alaskan locales prior to the start of our trip, and along his entire adventure, he captured some of the most stunning shots of the beautiful Alaskan landscapes and wildlife. Now, follow Chuck's journey and the stories he has to tell as you admire the craftsmanship of fine photography.

I decided to add a few days on the beginning of the trip American Forests took back in July to Denali in Alaska. My map said a trip starting in Fairbanks made a lot of sense, so I booked a ticket for a 4:30 p.m. arrival and off I went with not more of a plan than that. I like to find cool things to shoot at a destination rather than being influenced by how others have already captured it. I love the challenge, and then the reward, of having a "wow'er"--an image that causes a person to utter the word in joyful reaction to a picture.

I knew as soon as I saw this rainbow I had a sense that I might have my first "wow'er" for the trip. It was a very cool to begin my time in Alaska with a big win.

The Parks Highway from Fairbanks to Anchorage is one of the most beautiful drives in North America. Case in point. I almost missed this wonderful scene because I was focused on technology instead of focusing first on the grandeur that was so obvious in front of me. I was distracted by a drone issue that caused me to turn away from the range. I was in a place with other people, so it was easy to hear the talk of the cool and somewhat rare sighting of the summit of Mt. Denali. I might have been distracted, but I was prepared to get it once I knew I wanted to shoot it. (facing page, bottom) The Parks Highway is full of wildlife viewing opportunities. A couple cars parked on the side of the road is always a good indicator of something special to see--in this case a moose, which love to wade into a lake or pond and submerge their head to chomp down on grass growing on the bottom. (above left)

I got to Anchorage around 7:30 p.m., which pretty much added up to a 12-hour day driving through the Alaskan countryside. But, the thought of stopping made no sense. I could do a four-hour drive to the coastal town of Seward.

I got to Seward around 11:30 p.m. and--who knew?--every hotel in the town was closed for the night. I knew the hazard when I left Anchorage, and I was prepared to sleep in the car ... mostly because I knew if I had looked for a room and didn't find one, I might not have made the trip. And, not making the trip down to Seward would have been a very bad thing. The one hotel not closed had one room left but "it didn't have cable." I felt bad about taking the discount offered because I thought "cable? Unless a UFO landed, there was nothing I wanted to see on cable." Not only did the guy hook me up with a room, but he told me what boat tour to take the next morning and that, "oh by the way, there's a really good shot right now, at 12:30 a.m.," just down the scary gravel road next to the harbor, the deep cold harbor.

I thought "Hey, if someone says there's a picture to take, damn the whole potential drowning thing. Let's do this."

And, this is what I took at 12:20 a.m. that morning, (above right)

The boat tour the next day turned out to be one of the greatest nine-hour stretches I could ever hope to have as a photographer. …

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